Health After Graduation

Fellow soon-to-be-graduates, it’s really happening. We will soon be leaving Barnard and entering the weird, wild world of figuring out healthcare as graduates. To calm my own self down and try to spread some knowledge, I recently met with Barnard’s Executive Director for Student Health and Wellness, MJ Murphy.

She outlined four basic areas to be aware of for this transition:

  1. Health insurance
  2. Medical records
  3. Medications
  4. Following up on existing conditions

That sounds like a lot, but deep breaths! Let’s take it step by step (and not worry about dealing with these all in one day or figuring it all out right away, as my perfectionist streak would like).

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End of Semester (or college, for some of us) Marathon

So it’s that time of the year when things can get really stressful. If you’re like me and graduating, too, even though you’ve done this whole “end of the spring semester” thing several times before, the stress can pop up in surprising ways.

You may not be feeling overwhelmed, and that’s a-okay. In fact, that’s great, and I hope you keep feeling good! But you may also be like me and feeling a roller coaster of emotions (just today it was grumpy, sad, calm, elated, panicked – and I’ve only been up three hours), which is also a-okay. This can be a really challenging time full of changes and uncertainty and oh my gosh what is even happening. Yet it can (and I hope is!) also be a time of fun and frolicking and last-minute hangouts on the lawn.

But I bet all of us still have at least one super big-deal academic thing we must get through before the end of the school year and/or graduation, so here are some tips I’ve started using to help myself deal with the final countdown to thesis completion on days when it just seems IMPOSSIBLE:

  1. Set small, manageable expectations and be gentle with yourself. In the times when thesis really just isn’t happening, I will set a goal of literally one sentence and insist that I cannot yell at myself for being unproductive as a result. Usually, having more gentle expectations allows me to get at least two sentences done or even a whole paragraph and hey, that’s more helpful than getting nothing done and feeling even more unmotivated when I berate myself. A favorite way to phrase this manageable step approach in the office is “bird by bird:”
    Try to take your work “bird by bird.” As Anne Lamott (whose wonderful book, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” is in the WW office) tells it, her father once advised her younger brother, who
    was overwhelmed and struggling to write a paper on birds, “just take it bird by bird, buddy.” In other words, break your writing or studying up into bite-sized pieces (e.g. writing just one paragraph), and focus on
    that one piece without letting your mind wander to what else you have to do–the overall project, your other classes, your to-do list…Take a short break between each “bird” to stretch or walk around. You’ll be
    amazed at how much you can accomplish this way, and pretty soon you’ll have a whole flock of “birds” and your work will be that much closer to finished.
  2. Get support. Whether you need a listening ear, a tissue, or a pep-talk (three things I currently need in great measure on a typical day), try to reach out to your network or to the various offices on campus to get some support. Not sure where to start or feeling unsure? The Well-Woman office is here to help you figure out resources on campus, listen to your concerns, or just give you some tea and a chance to decompress.
  3. Take care of yourself (that includes having some fun). You sit on that lawn. You enjoy the sun on the steps. You watch that episode. Then you go do some work “bird by bird,” hopefully feeling refreshed and recharged from a fun break. Same goes for sleeping, eating, moderating the caffeine intake, or anything else that helps you feel well – keep up healthy habits you have already developed as best you can. It can be really tempting to let go of self-care habits when the going gets tough, as I do sometimes too, but it’s especially important to be kind to yourself during stressful times (and kindness includes being gentle to yourself if you don’t meet your self-care goals).

Those are just some ways I’m trying to stay grounded in this very often overwhelming time. Here’s to doing our best rather than aiming for perfection!

Thanksgiving Thoughts

As SGA reminded us earlier this week, Thanksgiving is indeed complicated. Thanksgiving might be a warm, connected, reflective celebration for you, which is wonderful, and I truly hope you enjoy this break. But around the holiday there are also destructive meanings and difficult experiences that I feel should be recognized as well as the positive aspects. Some of these realities erased from the mainstream narrative of the “First Thanksgiving” include the holiday’s links to genocide of indigenous people, as SGA pointed out. Thanksgiving can also feel very difficult if you are not able for whatever reason to go to a place you consider home, if you go home but don’t find it all that safe or relaxing, or if you have other concerns stirred up around this time. These aspects are real and valid.

But even though it’s not the only meaning or feeling associated with the day, there can be some really positive effects from “giving thanks,” whenever you choose to do so.  Research has demonstrated that reflecting on and expressing gratitude “has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others,” according to a New York Times article with suggestions on how to make gratitude a practice extending beyond one day. I would urge you to be gentle with yourself in this pursuit, especially if you are down, when this can feel very difficult. Everything is a process…and I am grateful for moments when I can take my own advice and remember this.

Best wishes for this break. The office will re-open Monday afternoon if you want a place to decompress, seek support, or just get some delicious tea.

-Mel

Continuing the conversation: Enthusiastic consent!

Trigger Warning: some description of sexual violence and other discussion of lack of consent in links.

The SGA Town Hall on Monday brought together lots of students and administrators to have some really important and engaging conversations about sexual violence on campus. Some key themes regarding consent came up: What constitutes “enthusiastic consent”? What does sexual respect look like? How can we create a campus community where every member puts these concepts into practice and holds each other accountable to the same standards?

In the spirit of keeping the dialogue going, here are some thoughtful, informative, and fun links about enthusiastic consent:

  • Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent — a witty and smart post from the wonderful sex ed resource Scarleteen. Heather Corinna defines consent as “an active process of willingly and freely choosing to participate in sex of any kind with someone else, and a shared responsibility for everyone engaging in, or who wants to engage in, any kind of sexual interaction with someone. When there is a question or invitation about sex of any kind, when consent is mutually given or affirmed, the answer on everyone’s part is an enthusiastic yes….If you want one word to define consent with it’s yes. Consent is a yes a million times over, for the love of all things sparkly, awesome and delicious, and not a minute longer if you want to do it too, please, yes.” This article also has a thorough chart breaking down examples of verbal and nonverbal consent versus what consent is not.
  • Consent is Not a Lightswitch — Jaclyn Friedman, co-author of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape (which also has a great blog), takes down the idea that consenting to one act is consenting to any act, which is so wrong, and instead shows that consent is an ongoing process. I love the combination of sass and wisdom in the article: “Contrary to what seems like popular belief, sexual consent isn’t like a lightswitch, which can be either “on,” or “off.” It’s not like there’s this one thing called “sex” you can consent to anyhow. “Sex” is an evolving series of actions and interactions. You have to have the enthusiastic consent of your partner for all of them. And even if you have your partner’s consent for a particular activity, you have to be prepared for it to change. See, consent isn’t a question. It’s a state. If, instead of lovers, the two of you were synchronized swimmers, consent would be the water. It’s not enough to jump in, get wet and climb out — if you want to swim, you have to be in the water continually. And if you want to have sex, you have to be continually in a state of enthusiastic consent with your partner.”
  • On the Critical Hotness of Enthusiastic Consent — a solid article describing how sexual assault prevention is thoroughly sex positive. The article also includes an amazing comic about sexual respect, boundaries, and consent. Check it out!

I hope these articles can help you keep the conversation happening: share them on your social media outlets (with a trigger warning, ideally — here’s why I use them in case that term is new to you), ask your friends what they think about these issues, or check out events happening elsewhere on campus since there are so many groups doing incredible work around consent, sex positivity, and violence prevention.

How would you like to see Well-Woman continue to engage issues around enthusiastic consent and sexual respect on our campus? Let us know in the comments!

Hallo-Well: Responsible Costuming

In my view, being well means not only taking care of and respecting yourself, but also means acting in ways that help make everyone else in our community feel safe and respected. That’s why I wanted to post a quick reminder this Halloween: racist costumes are just not okay, ever. If you think your costume may be offensive, just don’t do it.

I’m sure for most people reading the blog, this was already super obvious. Unfortunately, you might run into (on Facebook or elsewhere) people who forgot this important Halloween tip and who might be confused about why wearing Black-face is always awful or why dressing up as a stereotype doesn’t actually “honor other cultures.” There are a bunch of great resources you can read to educate yourself or share to educate friends, such as this round-up of links about working toward an anti-racist Halloween. Another link that comes from Adrienne K. at the blog Native Appropriations does an excellent job breaking down just how and why dressing up as a Native American for Halloween is so offensive, including an explanation of how these kind of costumes reinforce systems of oppression that are still very real and very destructive.

Respect our community this Halloween by not wearing these kinds of costumes and by holding your friends and family accountable if you see them wearing something offensive. All that said, I hope you have a happy, safe, and fun Halloween!

HalloGREEN is TONIGHT from 7-9 PM!

Pumpkins. Pumpkin themed desserts. Pumpkin decorating supplies (we’ve got glitter glue with your name on it). This is the magic of HalloGREEN! Join the Eco Reps and the Well-Woman Peer Eds for a super fun, super crafty pumpkin-palooza from 7-9 PM in the Well-Woman office. Check out the facebook event and make sure to stop by!

Amazing ad courtesy of Maddy

Amazing ad courtesy of Maddy

IUDs 101

Trigger Warning: Proceed with caution if discussion of menstruation or anything you might encounter in a gynecologist’s office is a sensitive subject for you. Also, beware mild profanity contained within the linked article if that’s a concern.

IUDs (intrauterine devices) are often misunderstood, but can be great contraceptive options and are worth knowing about even if it’s not the right choice for you. I am a big fan of IUDs, mainly because they last 5-10 years (depending on the model) with very little maintenance required as compared to a daily pill, as well as the reduction in menstruation that some people experience. Imagine my delight when I was sent this delightfully sassy article about IUDs covering the basics, the insertion process, myth busting, and more.

If you’re wondering whether an IUD could be the right choice for your birth control or other health needs, chatting with our coordinator Jessica or a Peer Ed or making an appointment at Primary Care can help you explore your options. We also have many books about contraception in our office, including the multitude of other options available if the IUD is not on your wishlist.